Malheur manager tells jury he feared for workers’ safety

Chad Karges told workers to stay home just before the 41-day standoff began

Opening statements in the trial of 7 defendants in the  Malheur Refuge occupation began September 13, 2016 (For KOIN: Sketch Artist Deborah Marble)
Opening statements in the trial of 7 defendants in the Malheur Refuge occupation began September 13, 2016 (For KOIN: Sketch Artist Deborah Marble)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN/AP) — The manager of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge testified Thursday that he feared for his workers’ safety and told them to stay home from work just before the 41-day standoff began.

On the second day of testimony in the trial, Chad Karges told jurors he saw a caravan of cars heading toward the refuge and a video of Ammon Bundy making a “call for arms” before he told his workers to stay home.

The 7 occupiers on trial pleaded not guilty to impeding federal employees from carrying out their work at the refuge through intimidation, threats or force.

When asked how long the group will stay, Ammon Bundy told KOIN 6 News, “As long as is necessary.” (KOIN)
When asked how long the group will stay, Ammon Bundy told KOIN 6 News, “As long as is necessary”, January 3, 2016. (KOIN)

During Thursday morning’s hearing, jurors were shown pictures of occupiers with rifles and trucks blocking entrances and exits to the refuge. Karges testified that the people responsible for the takeover moved concrete barriers and railroad ties to the refuge’s front gate, among other things.

The refuge manager said he also received information about a threat to kidnap a federal worker. He said he was also told “personal files had been accessed.”

When Karges went back to the refuge on February 16, he said he found a ‘do not enter’ sign on the office door. He told jurors a locked wooden file cabinet with property records was breached and files had been tampered with.

He said the bottom of a locked safe with $400 that belonged to Friends of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was also missing upon his return.

Two defendants are also charged with theft of government property. Five face an additional charge of possession of a firearm in a federal facility.

Ammon Bundy showed up in court Thursday wearing his jail scrubs instead of courtroom attire. In a statement read by his attorney, Bundy said he wanted to drop the facade he is presumed innocent and dress like the political prisoner he is.

During opening statements, occupiers said it was their goal to help local landowners deal with an overreaching federal government that abused their rights for decades.

The trial could go until November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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